Belize isn’t a country you hear much about. It’s a relatively small country boarding Guatemala and Mexico and just around the corner from Honduras and quite interestingly it is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Most of the cocoa production is based in the southern region of the country between the Columbia Forest Reserve and the Sarstooth National Park, which is actually one of the poorest regions of the country.
To some Belize invented ‘chocolatl’, with Janet Henshall Momsen and Pamela Richardson state that cacao has been grown in Belize for over 3000 years with the actual farming of the crop possibly going to before 250BCE.
One of the first accounts of significantly organised cacao harvesting was the establishment of a cacao farm in northern Belize by Melchor and Alonso Pacheco in 1544; although this wasn’t a pleasant an experience for the indigenous population as it may sound as they reportedly destroyed their crops, razing food stores and slaughtering them. The Spanish occupation lasted for another few centuries with a number of local rebellions. With the British becoming a stronger force in the Caribbean, which included the capture of Jamaica after 150 years of Spanish rule, a greater British influence took hold in the country.
It is thanks to Green & Blacks that the Belizean and the descendants of those original Mayan cocoa growers could rebound strongly after the plummeting of the cocoa prices in 1991 as by 1993 the Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association which represents 1,088 cacao farmers received Fairtrade status and could move beyond subsistence farming which had the effect of improving the livelihoods for themselves and their families.